"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's Picture Book Month!

I am so excited for tomorrow! I have big plans in store for this month-long celebration.  We'll be creating projects and sharing our passion for picture books. 

The signs are hung and the announcements are in the teachers' mailboxes. Next up: a notice for the parent newsletter.

We celebrated Picture Book Month last year and it was a very successful.  My favorite project was the reading challenge.  I delivered posters and stickers to each classroom, along with reading logs and instructions.  For one week the students logged and marked the picture books they read.  We had a school wide celebration at the end.  The students were so engaged that I had teachers asking me to extend it!  Visit the Picture Book Month Website for a media kit, calendar, ideas and links to author created activities.

Here are links to last year's projects:
(Book)Marking Picture Book Month

Celebrate Picture Book Month with These Books

Let the reading begin!

Kid Pix and the boy

I had been sitting with this young student for a few minutes before I grabbed my cell phone to capture this moment.
This first grader is very comfortable in this medium.  I am taken by how each line is purposeful.  There was no doubt about the art and no erasing.  The library was empty, save for the two of us, but he is still incredibly focused and task oriented.

This video reminds me how important it is to give students access to  the tools they need to express themselves.  I want to say something to this effect, "If the medium fits...use it," but that sounds as if it is an add on.  That's not my intention at all.  I mean that I want to work harder to find the right tools for the right child.

There were three first grade students who missed the Kid Pix production day that was part of the Tad Hills author study. Each student came into the library at a separate time between my other classes. What a thrill to watch them work.


~The beginning of the train picture~

It was such a different experience to work one on one with a child for an extended period of time. It got me thinking about the learning commons that I am slowly trying to create. I am really hoping that my Wednesday afternoon "flex time" will soon be filled with individual students or small groups of students creating, making and doing. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Citing Your Sources...A Circular Story

In the midst of an AUP lesson, this student raised his hand and then waxed poetic about the importance of citing one's sources.  Regretting that I had no smart phone or flip camera nearby, I whisked him outside during browsing to ask him to explain again why citing your sources is important.

I had to do two takes because of hallway noise, but after listening to both takes, I have included the salient points from each.  What I love?  Hearing him explain citing your sources sounds like a circular story of information sharing, sort of like a mutual admiration society.  Cool Beans.

I learned that...

..."they grow up and they grow down."
..."they decompose."
..."it's a life cycle."
..."how to plant a pumpkin."

I've been introducing my kindergarten students to nonfiction books.  These kindergartners as a grade level are my most avid nonfiction readers to date. (Integrating Common Core Standards will be easy for their teachers.)  We've been focusing on nonfiction books as information books - books that we go to for the who, what, when, where, why and how.

Trying to avoid the boring "location and access" type lesson, we are spending a few weeks with one text and then spending time exploring the nonfiction section independently.  I'm trying to come up with a more catchy name for the nonfiction section, which happens to run along the back wall of my library.  What do you think of this?

Wonder Wall

I Wonder...
Why...this happens
Where... it is located
Who...invented this
What...happens when
How... tall it is

Tell me what you think!  Share your ideas.  In the meantime, after only one reading, here's what these students learned from the book, Pumpkin Circle.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

On community

One of my favorite images from the Sharon Creech visit was seeing my principal, move about the auditorium, up and down the aisles, microphone in hand, passing it to the next student with a question. He called it his Phil Donahue moment. 

For me, it was another
Mark moment.  I think my principal is awesome, that's not to say he's perfect, but he's a wonderful person and a great leader.  His leadership has helped create a tight knit community of educators, but not just educators coming together with a common goal of helping students learn, we're a community, period.  We challenge, support, celebrate and encourage each other as individuals and teachers. 

Our September faculty meeting this year marked a very important milestone for Mark and our small community
- Mark announced that he is five years cancer free. 

Mark's leadership was the same before as it was after his diagnosis, but there is no doubt it has shaped those of us who have been here through it all.  The cake we celebrated his five year anniversary was as sweet as the sound of his message.  Here's the story I wrote for Mark at the time of his cancer. (I have all these great illustrations in my head, but lack the skills to produce them, so you will have to create your own mental images.) 

Mr. Springer’s Hats
Jennifer Kelley Reed
This is Mr. Springer. 
He’s a principal. 
He loves his students and his students love him. 

This is Mr. Springer reading to some students. Mr. Springer loves to read.

Did you notice Mr. Springer’s tie? Like many elementary school principals, Mr. Springer likes to wear fun ties. 

Recently, his doctor told Mr. Springer that he had cancer.  Mr. Springer’s doctor told him it was a very curable type of cancer, but that the medicine he would take would make his hair fall out. 

Mr. Springer did some thinking. 

He thought about the students in his school, he thought about his hair falling out, and he thought about how his students would feel when they saw him with no hair.

He thought about his ties. 

He had an idea.  Maybe he could wear a fun hat just like he wore fun ties.

Mr. Springer tried on many types of hats trying to find the right one. 

Finally, he did find just the right one.  Mr. Springer is a Red Sox fan.

At the next school assembly, Mr. Springer had a special announcement for the students. 

He told them that for the rest of the school year, every day would be hat day! 

Mr. Springer felt that if he could wear a hat to school every day while he was going through his cancer treatment then the students should be able to also.  Mr. Springer told the students that they didn’t have to wear a hat but if they wanted to they could. 

He had some rules about hats though: no teasing and no bullying about hats that students chose to wear and no using them to distract from learning.

Mr. Springer cut his hair short and then shorter and began wearing hats to school sometimes.  Many students also wore hats to school, to show their support for Mr. Springer. 

A few weeks later, Mr. Springer shaved his head and began wearing a hat every day. 

The only problem was it was the same hat, every day! 

The students loved Mr. Springer’s Red Sox hat, but they thought it was boring wearing the same hat to school every day. 

The students thought about Mr. Springer. They thought about his hat.  They thought about his ties.  

They had an idea. 

At the next school assembly, the students had a special announcement. 

They told Mr. Springer that since every day was hat day, he should have a hat for every day!  That day, the following day, and for many days after that for the rest of the school year, Mr. Springer was given a hat. 

Some were old, some were new, some were borrowed and some were blue.

Sometimes, the hat was from a far away place and sometimes it was from very nearby. 

Regardless of their condition, style or sports affiliation, Mr. Springer loved all of his hats.

This is Mr. Springer. 
He is a principal. 
He loves his students and his students love him.

Hats off to Mr. Springer!

On this stormy day, I'm feeling thankful for my school community and for all my communities and the people in them who challenge, support, and encourage me.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

And so it begins...

Inspired by Tad Hills' Rocket books, these first grade students have created their stories.  (See previous post: Rocket Inspired Stories)

The students are working on adding details to their stories.  Please feel free to comment on a story or ask questions.  We'll respond!

Ms. M's Students Write Their Story

Ms. F's Students Write Their Stories

Ms. T's Students Write Their Stories

Rocket Inspired Stories

The first graders are moving along in the Tad Hills' author/illustrator study.  

This project has gained quite a bit of energy and momentum.  The classroom teachers and I are developing additional storytelling and writing activities to tie into the next ELA unit because we've been having so much fun with this first part.  

I think this has been such a great collaboration because the books have messages and ideas that tie right into their reading and writing strands and align nicely to the common core.  I cringe a little bit saying this, but this is the reality: if I want teacher to collaborate and it is going to take time from their instructional day, then there needs to be real value, not always just a curriculum connection.  The Rocket books have real value. 

Here's what we have done so far:

We have read the books in library and the classroom:

The students brainstormed ideas - just as the Little Yellow Bird helps Rocket to do:
~think about things you have seen

~think about things you have done
~think about things you are interested in
~think about places you have been
One of the first grade teachers created this Word Tree for collecting words for their stories:
They collected their words:

Some created a draft story picture:
The rocket and the bird
They came to the library and we introduced KidPix and game them time to explore the tools - including text boxes. We talked about using the appropriate tools for creating their pictures (no backgrounds, very few stamps, readable fonts).

They came back for a second visit and created their pictures.

Coming up next - the students as storytellers!  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"History Can Get Sticky!"

From the Boston Globe Archives
Published in today's Boston Globe was this picture from the Great Molasses Flood.  The images of the destruction from the event are incredible. The Great Molasses Flood occurred in 1919, but as a child in the 60's and 70's, I swore I could still smell the molasses on hot days.
From The Boston Globe Archives
"History can get sticky," so says Deborah Kops in her inscription inside her latest book, The Great Molasses FloodSticky indeed. Kops does an excellent job of creating context for The Great Molasses Flood for today's young readers.

Read what this fifth grade student had to say:

The Great Molasses Flood
Boston, 1919

            "All of my favorite books before reading this were fiction, but after taking in all the amazingly descriptive text and seeing all the vivid photographs of the event I added a nonfiction book to my list. The author does an amazing job describing exactly what happened during the event. In the past, I had seen a play done on the molasses flood, but had never really understood what it was all about. In the book, there are many quotes and different perspectives of all involved. The story begins before the flood and ends six years later- spanning the entire event. I think everyone old enough to understand what was going on would enjoy this, my dad liked it too. There are small portrait pictures and full two page scenes rolled beneath your eyes. Between these extraordinary photographs and the stunning text, The Great Molasses Flood Boston, 1919 is definitely a book to read."

Archival photograph.
The story begins by stepping into the routine of one of the cast of characters -- with whom the reader had become familiar in the preface -- and within a few paragraphs, the reader is immersed in history.  The people and the neighborhood come alive.  It is now lunch hour, January 15, 1919.

Kops' research allowed her to give the readers a full picture of the Flood and its impact on the people and neighborhood.  Told in a suspenseful manner, the reader is drawn past the flood and into the legal battle that ensued after its wake.  Part history, part mystery this local Boston event will appeal to readers both near and far away.

Interested in the specifics? 
I loved:

~~the map at the beginning of the book  

It creates a necessary and invaluable visual reference for readers.  Even knowing the neighborhood, I referred back to it often.

~~the statistics

The size of the tank, the amount and weight of the molasses and many other elements are broken down and explored.

~~the photographs

They speak the volumes that words could never achieve.

~~The sidebar descriptions 

They provide additional background and context for understanding the flood.

~~The cast of characters 

Kops introduces the main players prior to the beginning of the story making it easy to refer back for clarification.

~~The overall presentation of the book

The weight and color of the paper, the color and style of the typeface all enhance the reading experience and help establish the time and setting.

Want to know more?

Check out Deborah Kops Webpage for more information.

Check out The Boston Globe Archives

Visit the Charlesbridge Website for interviews and more.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Setting the Record Straight

What is a book?

These kindergarten students share their thoughts....

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sharing Sharon's Wisdom

It's hard to believe that two weeks have passed since Sharon Creech visited our school. There is still a resounding buzz throughout the school.

Just look at the adjectives the students used to describe the visit:
One of their favorite parts of the presentation was the participatory reading skit. Sharon called up a few students to read from two different sections of The Great Unexpected.

The students were to participate:
Sharon went on to read from The Great Unexpected and share her inspiration for the story, starting with one of the great unexpected events in her own life: winning the Newbery Medal for Walk Two Moons.

This visit was far and beyond the best author visit we have ever experienced at our school.  I've spent the last two weeks thinking why this is true.  It's an amazing feat considering it was only the 13th day of the school year and routines and communities are still being established at this point.

Why was it so phenomenal? 

I think it was the recipe!  Take one part amazing author, two parts excited teachers and three parts avid readers (aka students) and voila!  Success.
Seriously, the teachers were amazing.  They all started the year with a Sharon Creech book for their read aloud.  They were flexible and amenable to all my last minute requests and ideas.   The students jumped right on the bandwagon.  Those who were established Sharon Creech readers infected other students with their enthusiasm.  By the fifth day of school there was not a Sharon Creech book to be found in my library (and I had purchased extra copies of all of her books).  The classroom Creech book baskets were quickly being depleted as well.

The week of the visit, each student wrote a question for Sharon.  I read through every question (160 of them!) and chose three from each classroom trying to ensure a breadth and depth of questions and themes.  Here are some of the ones that were chosen:

"Did you like writing in school when you were our age?"

"For Love That Dog, Why did you choose those specific poems?"

"Do you usually get to choose your illustrator?"

"What is your method for coming up with characters for your stories?"

"How do you choose the titles for your books?"

"Do you ever get stuck in the middle of writing a book?"

"What is your favorite part of the writing process?"

"What is the first thing you thought you were going to be when you grew up?"

The real reason.
The real reason is was so special is the master storyteller herself,  Sharon Creech. Like a maestro, she created a symphony of story.  The students were mesmerized, but even better, they were inspired.

Sharing Sharon's Wisdom

This was on a Friday, on Monday, each student reflected on the visit by answering this question, "What is one thing you learned from Sharon Creech that you will bring back and apply to your reading, writing and/or life?"  

"One thing I learned from Sharon was about taking a pause. I sometimes get stuck during my writing and it might help if I take a mini-break."

"One thing I learned from Sharon Creech is if you take a nap and think about characters you can make a better story."

"I learned that if you're having trouble with something take a break (but maybe not in school)."

"If you are stuck, it isn't stuck, you just need to take a break."

"That if you are stuck and you don;t know what to write, then take your min off of the story and go for a walk or take a nap and when you come back or wake up, then you'll probably know what to write."

"One thing I learned from Sharon Creech is that you should pick interesting names to hook the reader on.  In my writing, I will pick funny and interesting names to make the reader not want to stop reading."

"I really like how in the beginning of her stories she really hooks you to the book.  Like in the Great Unexpected.  I want to know why, who and how that boy fell out of the tree.  So now in my writing, I will use this strategy to get readers interested."

"I learned that there were two different types of books, going on a journey and a stranger coming to town."

"Anything as small as a fortune cookie can bring big ideas."

"One thing I learned from Sharon creech is that you should pay attention to life around you and then you might see something that might inspire you and then you can write a really good story that you got from your everyday life."

"What I am going to apply to my writing is that people's personalities can help you think of characters."

"I learned that a story seed can come from anyplace and anywhere."

"I learned from Sharon Creech that I should have a list of characters in a little book, so I can go and look in it if I can't think of any characters."
The Book Signing
The students loved being able to talk with Sharon individually during the book signing.

More Questions
I also invited students to ask a question that was inspired by her visit. Check these out:

"While you are writing books, do you end up feeling what the character is feeling?"

"If you could sell only one of your books, which one would it be?"

"When you were writing Bloomability, how did you decide that Lila was going to be different at the school than when she met Dinne?  Why did you want to change her?"

Check out the comments on the card they made for her:

I created this book spine poem after the visit:

Absolutely Normal Chaos

Hate That Cat
Fishing in the Air
Chasing Redbird,
The Unfinished Angel.

Love That Dog,
Ruby Holler.

The Great Unexpected,
Granny Torelli, Makes Soup
The Castle Corona.



Library Assessment
Here are the major themes that emerged from the responses: be inspired by everyday life experiences, they could be story seeds; persevere -- write, edit, write some more; and, pause during writing - don't think of yourself as being stuck, take a break and come back to it.

I needed some assessment data for the library, so I sent home a quick rubric in two fifth grade and two fourth grade classrooms.  Seventy students responded.

Here are some things I learned:
**62 out of 70 students want to read more of her books because of her visit, and 
**50 students felt this visit was different than other author visits for reasons such as: location - it was in the auditorium as opposed to the library or classroom; book signing - we've never had an author willing to do this before; reading from and talking about primarily one book as opposed to the body of literature; and, mainly that it was about Sharon Creech herself, she was fun, engaging and interesting. Indeed.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"I really like that Tad Hills."

"I really like that Tad Hills."

I'm into the second lesson of a Tad Hills author/illustrator study with my first graders and that was the best comment of the day.  It was said as if the author was someone she had recently met. 

Let me just say that there is nothing more fun than watching students' faces light up when they are enjoying a story.  I didn't work with these students as kindergartners, so we are still getting to know each other.  This Tad Hills author study is giving me good insight as to who they are and great year that lies ahead of us.  I saw faces alight with joy and recognition, both today and last week.  These students are clearly identifying with the characters in the book and enjoying the journey with them.

Last week I read, Duck and Goose.  I needed to begin with a shorter story and this seemed the perfect place to start.  We read the book and started to frame our discussion.  Learning to talk meaningfully about books is a skill that we are just starting to practice.

When they came back to the library today, we recalled the previous week's story and reflected on it, then the students practiced having a conversation about the book.

Actual conversation today:

Student 1: "Have you read, Duck and Goose?"

Student 2: "Yes!"

Student 1: "Tell me about the book." 

Student 2: "It was hilarious.  I liked how Duck and Goose thought the egg was hatching, but it was really the bird kicking the ball."

Two other favorites were, "I think the full color illustrations bring you into the story," and "It's a story about friendship." Another student shared that he liked the juicy words in the story. Seriously, children are amazing and can often see the big picture, even when they are rooted in the literal.

After a few students modeling this, we read How Rocket Learned to Read.  They loved the scene where Rocket writes in the snow.  Funny.  I wonder if that scene would resonate with children from Florida?

After the story, we briefly reflected whole group. I decided to try out Voicethread and see how that changed their willingness or interest to share their thinking.  The line to my "recording studio" aka "the hallway" was out the door.  I understand why, but still want to find ways, beyond a think, pair, share and/or whole group share to empower more students to take risks and share what they are thinking.

I couldn't fit all the students into the time that I had, but you'll get the drift.
 They loved the book.The conversations are in the order of my classes.  I must have read the book with a different emphasis the second time because a majority of the comments relate to when Rocket is left with the bone-related cliff hanger by the little bird. Interesting.

Also interesting for me is that more students wanted to share their thinking via Voicethread, but they were far less specific  or articulate using this tool.  I am eager to watch their growth using this and other tools to express their thinking.  

Have your students read the book?  We'd love them to join our conversation!